A lot of times just the thought of descending into the subway can compound the complexities of living in New York City. But not even the spirit of the most hardened New Yorker can be sunk as the sounds of live Beatle's music rises to greet them every Friday and Saturday night at the Times Square and Herald Square Subways.
The four man, two woman recreation is known as The Meetles. “It’s a play on the Beatle’s album, “Meet the Beatles,” says the band's drummer Eric Paulin.
With the numbers and gender identity obviously off, the Meetles make no attempt to recreate the long ago visuals. “It’s more like a people’s Beatle's cover band,” he says.
And he’s not the only one who stacks the Meetles up against more polished productions such as Broadway’s Rain. “We have more rough edges," he says, "but people who’ve seen both are very charmed by the organic quality of what we are doing."
The four hour long party among the masses has got to go along way toward accomplishing that. On the other hand, the subway presents the Meetles with the same types of survival of the fittest issues that the rest of us face.
Aside from the rough atmosphere, non sanctioned freelance artists attempt to infringe on their space. "Sometimes they give us grief, and we have to get the cops to help us,” he says. "So it can turn into a bit of a scene."
The fact that most of the cops love the Beatles, and their act eases the eviction, but no wave of blue support can warm their chilled instruments or frozen digits when winter sets in. Although it is summer that truly gives the band pause. Adding 20 degrees to the New York City heat and humidity, he says, "you have to be extremely careful and pace yourself because a heart attack is definitely in play."
That said, the middle aged Meetles still go at it full tilt. Keeping the breaks very short and enduring the cold and heat almost every weekend throughout the year, he says, "I truly believe this is the hardest working band in the subway."
But it must suffice in order to sustain what the Meetles are after. "We get a crowd. We want to keep the crowd," he says. "So yes we want to make money, but we also want to keep up the fun and good spirits."
Metrocards submerged, Meetlemania puts destinations on hold and tapping feet on the move – even if New York has dealt them yet another difficult hand. "A lot of people come up to us and say 'we’re having a miserable time but you just made you our day,'" he relays.
The Meetles, who definitely dabble into other feel good classic Rock 'n Roll, were unfortunately born out of the worst day in Beatle history. Every December 8th (and on John Lennon’s Birthday) musicians from all over converge on Strawberry Fields in Central Park. There they play homage to the fallen Beatle. Paulin has been doing it since 1998, and the first stages of the Meetles grew out of that. "We played there so many times that we decided to get together and do some projects," he said.
By 2007, they would go on to become a house band at various Beatle Meetups, (which also serves in the origins of the name), and in 2009 Paulin convinced the first iteration of the Meetles to play the subway. "All those people checking you out and digging what you are doing," he said, "band mates liked the gig."
But he concedes that the first Meetles were not quite there. Additionally, playing in the subway created a different type of groupie that always kept things in flux. "So many fans wanted to play in the band," he says, "and it just got way too loud and big."
Settled on six for about a year, which includes his wife Naomi on base, the dollars pile up in varying degrees. “Sometimes the money is ok, and sometimes it’s very good, he says.
In contrast, the Meetles met up with a little more financial bulk when a producer from 30 Rock saw the show in the subway and invited them to play the rap party. "They didn’t get to see us in all our Times Square glory, where we're getting a 150 people going, but they all liked the music and were very cool to us," he said.
Still, their most connected acknowledgement came quietly in the form of a simple gesture. "She stopped for 30 seconds, smiled and gave us a peace sign,” he says as Yoko Ono passed them playing at Strawberry fields in 2005.
A day in the life the Meetles won't even try to beat.